The Truth About Cars » EV Charging The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:27:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » EV Charging Toyota iQ EV Won’t Be Offered For Private Sale. Public Charging Chaos To Blame? Tue, 19 Jul 2011 15:06:33 +0000

UPDATE: Toyota confirms:

Recent reports have incorrectly stated that the 2012 RAV4 EV will only be marketed to fleet and car sharing programs.  We’d like to set the record straight.  The 2012 RAV4 EV will definitely be sold to the general public.  We anticipate robust public interest in the RAV4 EV and are keen to inform consumers that their future vehicle options include a battery electric Toyota.

Toyota is the only manufacturer bringing two battery electric vehicles to the market in 2012 – the RAV4 EV and the Scion iQ EV.  While the RAV4 EV will be available to the public, the Scion iQ EV will be marketed to fleet and car sharing programs only.

A number of major auto outlets got clowned yesterday when a Pike Research blog item seemed to quote Toyota Business Planning Manager of Advanced Vehicle Marketing Geri Yoza as saying the Tesla-developed RAV4 EV would not be sold to private customers, but would distributed to fleets and car sharing services. Not so, it turns out, as Toyota has corrected the Yoza quote by confirming that only the electric version of the iQ city car will definitely not be offered for public sale. But by the time Pike Research got its facts straight, the misinformation had ben regurgitated by the biggest names in car blogging, and had even made its way over to the other side of the Atlantic. The worst part: the real issue brought up in the Pike Research piece was largely lost in the autoblogosphere’s rush to prove Mark Twain’s adage that “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” And, as usual, the slow-dressing truth is a lot more interesting than the globe-trotting lie…

In the absence of any coordinated EV range-extending strategy (such as Project Better Place’s battery swap network), an ad-hoc system of public chargers is America’s only answer to the deep flaws in its new automotive crush, the EV. Thus far, EV buyers will largely have to rely on home charging, with either a standard 120V plugin or a 240V “dryer socket” for faster charging. But already public money is being spent to set up DC fast chargers, which cost $80k per unit, but charge ten times faster than a so-called “level 2″ (240V AC) charger. But not only do these chargers need their own batteries to manage peak-use energy draws and grid chaos, but no automaker supports their use in a base-level factory-stock car. That’s right, your local government may well be putting up these public charge stations at $80k a pop even though no car can actually use them without at least ticking one box when you order it from the factory (DC charging compatibility is a $700 option on the Nissan Leaf). What’s wrong with this picture?

More germane to this piece, what do the wasteful or far-sighted (depending on how you look at it) EV-promoting practices of local governments have to do with Toyota’s EV product plans? Everything, it turns out. The DC rapid chargers use a technology known as ChaDeMo, which has not yet been ratified by the all-powerful Society of Automotive Engineers as the DC charging standard. Since Nissan only offers ChaDeMo compatibility as an option, and Mitsubishi is the only other automaker to commit to selling a compatible EV in the US, the standard isn’t going anywhere with SAE. And so Toyota, fearful of getting caught in a bad bet if the SAE chooses an alternative standard, is not fitting its Tesla-developed RAV4 EV or iQ EV with a DC fast-charging port until the SAE commits. And the SAE may well be leaning away from ChaDeMo…

Is this why the iQ EV won’t be sold publicly? Or is the problem that Toyota sees the tiny EV as too small and too expensive to sell reliably in the US market? After all, the RAV4 also won’t get a rapid charge capability, but then we haven’t heard specific plans for range, price or production volume (let alone location) for the RAV4, so we’d argue that reports that “Toyota will launch three plug-in vehicles next year” are highly misleading. The Prius PHEV seems ready to roll, but the iQ and the RAV4 are likely to be small-volume ventures, and with the iQ already relegated to a fleet-only role, it’s tough to see Toyota giving the RAV4 (which, unlike the iQ it did not develop itself) free reign for public sales. As a fundamentally conservative company, things like unresolved fast-charging issues as well as the unproven status of the RAV4 EV’s Tesla batteries are not the kinds of things that Toyota just ignores. Since the Prius PHEV doesn’t need fast-charging, expect that to launch as normal, but don’t hold your breath for private sales of any Toyota pure EV (at least in any kind of meaningful volume) for at least another few years.

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Volt Customer Advisory Board Member Runs Into Charger Issues Sat, 23 Oct 2010 16:32:22 +0000

When I embarked on the Volt press launch, I made a public promise to keep my impressions of the car itself separate from concerns about its overall viability. My review of the Volt is coming on Monday, but a new issue is already raising its head to confront GM’s extended-range electric car. The Volt’s home charger costs $490 on top of the Volt’s $41,000 (pre-tax credit) price, and costs another $1,500 to install. But, according to BNet’s Jim Motavelli, money isn’t the only obstacle to obtaining the home charger that’s necessary to tap the Volt’s 40 miles of electric range. EV advocate and Volt Customer Advisory Board member Chelsea Sexton, of “Who Killed The Electric Car? fame, is one of the first Americans to live with the Volt, and despite enjoying the backing of GM, she’s run into a problem that she and other EV advocates worry will blunt enthusiasm for home-charged EVs like the Volt: she needs a “time of use” meter.

Motavelli explains the conundrum

California puts its electricity users in pricing categories based on their usage patterns. Since Sexton uses a “stunningly low” amount of electricity, she’s on the lowest tier. But the addition of the Volt would push her into a higher bracket, making it likely that EV charging “would be more expensive than putting gas in my Saturn.” With the time-of-use meter, the EV is billed separately and doesn’t count as part of her home use.

But California’s public utilities commission requires all of its customers’ electric meters to be grouped together, and that meant running a one-inch thick metal conduit along the face of her building. The other option is to punch through three neighbors’ walls. “I can just see the homeowners’ association going for that,” she said.

GM and its allied EV advocates never miss an opportunity to tout the low cost of electricity, but in California, rates increase with use. Without a separate meter to break out Volt charges, Sexton would likely end up paying considerably more for electricity, further damaging the Volt’s already-tenuous value proposition. And in order to install a compliant time-of-use meter, many customers may be facing major logistical issues and even more unexpected costs. Sexton herself seems committed to the EV cause, and is willing to sacrifice for it. But she clearly worries about how this charger installation issue will affect the mass market that GM clearly wants to target with its Volt. Sexton tells Motavelli

There’s nothing about my installation that they shouldn’t have seen coming. We could have been resolving this a month ago. And the point is that it happened to me, someone who understands the process as well as anyone, who has access to all the right people, who’s been party to hundreds of installations. So the average person is likely to get incredibly frustrated, and may end up walking away –- unless they’re so enthusiastic that they’ll put up with it.

And Motavelli points out that the problem isn’t limited to Sexton or the Volt, citing the example of Richard Lowenthal, CEO of the home-charger firm Coloumb Industries. Despite his obvious clout and interest in promoting home EV charging, Lowenthal admitted to Motavelli that his MINI E home charger took months to install. Motavelli concludes

I am convinced that none of the relevant parties, including car companies, utilities, state and local officials, have fully thought through the installation of charging infrastructure, including contingency plans for problems like Sexton’s. I’ve become frustrated by the vagueness emanating from parties issuing assurances that all will go smoothly. Frankly, it won’t. And here’s exhibit A.

Sexton is looking into her options, and making an appointment with the neighborhood association. Meanwhile, her garage is staying locked. And the Volt is supposed to be delivered next week.

With misunderstandings and debates over the Volt’s technical details and efficiency measurement already rampant, it’s clear that a mass-market rollout for the Volt is going to face a number of unforeseen challenges, and this charger issue is just another log on the fire. And it points to a larger issue: namely, that people who don’t own their own homes will face numerous challenges installinga home charger, particularly if they’re part of the urban loft-dwelling crowd who might be expected to form the vanguard for EV ownership. Regardless of what the Volt, Leaf, Coda and other EV hopefuls are like as cars, they face the inevitable challenges of changing how consumers interact with their automobiles. And that’s not something that can be fixed simply with education and PR.

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Microsoft: Hohm On The Range Anxiety Wed, 31 Mar 2010 16:38:38 +0000

Reuters reports that Ford and Microsoft are deepening ties that began with the Sync hands-free system, announcing a new online app aimed at plug-in vehicle owners. “Hohm,” as the new app is called, will be made available for free to owners of Ford electric vehicles, and will “help vehicle and home owners decide when to power up electric vehicle batteries, in the hope that consumers will draw power from the grid at night, when energy use and costs are lower” according to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Which leaves only one problem: the fact that Ford doesn’t sell any electric vehicles. An EV version of the Transit Connect commercial van will be made available later this year, one of five EVs Ford says it will sell by 2013. But how much will EV recharging be about planning the most efficient time to maximize grid downtime? Won’t people who use their EV every day simply plug in when they get home and unplug when they head to work in the morning? Does there really need to be an app for this? Oh right, as a society we’ve stopped asking that particular question. Very well, carry on.

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